Negotiating Your Car Insurance Claim

The value of a totaled vehicle is one of the most contested car insurance claims. Is it too low, is it fair, or is it more than you expected? It doesn’t have to be, based on a recent article in the Dallas Morning News by Jerry Reynolds. His article, “How to Negotiate with Insurers,” suggests, if you’re willing to do a little homework, you’ll know whether the offer you receive for your totaled or stolen vehicle is fair or not.

The value of a totaled vehicle is one of the most contested car insurance claims. Is it too low, is it fair, or is it more than you expected? You don’t have to accept the initial offer made by the insurance adjuster, especially if it’s the other party’s insurance company. I recommend my clients evaluate the value of their vehicle using three different websites,,, and

Edmunds and Kelly Blue book provide you with a range based on your vehicle’s age, mileage, make and model, equipment level, extras you may have added, and condition. The condition usually ranges from poor to mint and does a nice job of defining what they mean. In addition, you can review the value of your vehicle based on trade in and retail value.

Auto Trader provides a great source of what vehicles, like the one you just wrecked, are selling for from dealers and individuals within a defined radius of where you live. Reynolds suggests setting the range to vehicles within a 300-mile radius of your zip code, although, if you’re in a major metropolitan area such as D/FW, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, etc., you can probably obtain an accurate estimate within a 25 or 50 mile radius.

If the offer is lower than the numbers you find on the three websites, don’t argue or berate the adjuster. Provide them with documentation to back up your position and confirm they are aware of all special equipment such as a diesel engine, DVD player, custom wheels, etc.

I also suggest my clients review their records for all repairs made to the vehicle in the past 12 months. Do not include oil changes or other maintenance items, however, do provide copies of receipts for new tires and all other repairs. The insurance adjuster should assign a depreciated dollar value to all repairs and add it to the overall value of the vehicle.

If the adjuster still doesn’t “get it,” or has an attitude, ask for their supervisor. Adjusters are people too with good and bad days and sometimes they make mistakes. They do want to settle your claim and won’t take offense at introducing you to their supervisor. Keep in mind this is a business discussion and should avoid sounding like an episode of the Jerry Springer show.

I have one last suggestion. If you’re reviewing an offer from the other party’s insurance adjuster that’s unacceptable, consider changing the claim to your insurance company. You may end up with a more favorable offer. You will be out of pocket for the deductible, however, you’ll get that back once your company has subrogated, or requested payment, from the other company.

Have a question, comment, or experience you’d like to share? Please share them with me on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

Share this post with your friends